Composting 101

When deciding what can go in your compost heap, it is good to know how composting works. Basically, composting is the process of breaking down and decomposing materials. The key to composting for your lawn or garden is having the right mix of materials, air, and heat, so that this process is controlled. If the process is not controlled, you will end up with rotting or mold instead of usable compost.

If you are composting at home, you can simply start a pile in the corner of your yard. You (and your neighbors) may find this unsightly however, and it also will break down very slowly, taking a year or more before you can use it. Using a compost bin, particularly one that allows you to rotate or move the material around, will not only contain your compost in a more attractive way, if used properly, it will help your compost break down faster and be usable sooner.

For ideal composting to occur, you need the right mix of materials that contain carbon, and those that contain nitrogen. For home composting, your carbon materials may come mostly from your lawn, like dried leaves, while your nitrogen materials are more likely to come from your kitchen, like vegetable leaves.

Compost will need to be moist, but not too wet or too dry. If you live in a particularly dry climate, or the weather is beginning to get colder, you may need to add some water to your compost pile. Your compost will also need air in order for the bacteria to operate optimally. Mixing your compost, or aerating it, occasionally will assist in this. Some compost containers have tumbler features and can just be turned. This is one easy technique that will make your compost degrade faster and be garden ready sooner.

by Jena Luthovski

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